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The Etymology of the Word "Amazigh"

The Etymology of the Word "Amazigh"

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Published by D.Messaoudi
Where does the word "Amazigh" come from? What does it mean? Is it really created in Berberist lab as some people say or is it created by the French colonialist, as other peolple think? Here is our answer.
Where does the word "Amazigh" come from? What does it mean? Is it really created in Berberist lab as some people say or is it created by the French colonialist, as other peolple think? Here is our answer.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: D.Messaoudi on May 07, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The etymology of the word “Amazigh”
By: D. Messaoudi
This is an article that can be an answer to the Libyan leader Al-Kadhafi, who once declared that theword “Amazigh” is created by the colonialists to divide the North African people who, according tohim, are Arabs.
The term “Amazigh” is not a creation of the French colonialism as it is said or written by many Arab’intellectuals ’ known for their Pan-Arabist opinions [1], but it is definitely the appellation of theinhabitants of North Africa from immemorial times. This term is found in the texts / inscriptions of thePharaonic Egypt of the period of Ramsis III, under the form of Macwc [2], in ancient Greek and Latinin which it appears under various forms: Mazyes (Hécatée-6th century A.C.), Maxyes (Hérodote-5thcentury A.C.), Mazax, Mazaces, Mazikes (Ref. Latin dictionary: 956), and in the Arab texts of MediumAge, as those written by Ibn-Khaldoun. It is nowadays the name which identifies Tamazight speakersin several regions of Tamazgha (Berber Land), as in Sened (Tunisia), in Djebel Nefoussa (Libya), inTouat (Algeria), in the Medium Atlas (Morocco), and in Sahara (Algeria, Mali, Niger).There are several hypotheses about the ethnonym “Amazigh”, but all of them are devoid of convincing proofs, except one which is worth being mentioned here and even supported by our ownargument: it is the one put forward by F. Nicolas in 1950 and taken up again by K. Prasse in 1972and by S. Chaker in 1991.According to these authors, “amaziү / amajeү” would come from the Berber verb “jjeү” which meansin the Iwelmiden’s idiom (Touareg group of dialects), “to walk boastfully”. However, as S. Chaker (see. Chaker, 1996:131) put it, an agent with the structure aMaCiC / aMaCeC is unlikely to be derivedfrom a verb with a long initial radical phoneme, because this type of verbs gives normally agents of aMaCCaC structure, e.g: “
es - ama
as (K.)”. It is then necessary to search a verbal lexeme with ashort initial radical phoneme. The lexeme being discussed is that mentioned by Chaker, i.e. “jeүeү”which means « to be brave / courageous » (see. Alojali, on 1980:83); it is in fact this form which, byprogressive assimilation, gave the variant “jjeү” [3] .At first glance, the terms, “amaziү / amajeү” are unlikely to be related to the verb “jeүeү”, because thislexeme will rather give “Amajeүeү” which is not certified in any existing Amazigh idiom. However, weare practically sure that it is from this agent, synchronically abnormal, that the over-mentionedethnonym is derived. Our hypothesis is founded on a very common phenomenon in Amazighlanguage: the apocope. The apocope, which affects weak radicals within words (see. Taïfi, in Awal,1990:228), can be described as the cutting off of the last sound or syllable of a word. Thisphenomenon is observed in a lot of pairs as in: “
fut / ta
fi; iүzif / teүzi; tuker 
a / aker”; etc.“(A) majeүeү”, both at the level of its constituting radicals and its schema, would be therefore theprimitive form. We can explain the evolution of this form into “Amajeү” and “amaziү”, synchronicallyobserved in Touareg and northern Berber, in the following way: at the beginning, that is to say after the fourth division when the afro-Asiatic group broke up, the Berbers became more individual andidentified themselves with the name “(a) Majeүeү”, then some tribes went up northward and someothers downward to Sahara. This separation had favoured the evolution of the Berber language onboth sides, but in different ways, leading the original ethnonym to give birth to four variants: in thesouth (a) Majeү, (a) maheү, (a) Maceүand in the north (a) Maziү. ______________________________ Footnotes[1] I remember having read in an Algerian newspaper, just after October 89, an article written by anobscure doctor named Abdelkrime El-Djazaïri, in which the latter argued that the word “Amazigh” was

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